Companies considering SAP-integrated invoice verification workflows will at some point be confronted with the question of whether to use a system with SAP parking or whether to use the system vendor's own documents. In this article, we distinguish between documents that are parked in SAP, that are posted in SAP, and that qualify as your own "technical" documents. The essential difference between these types of documents becomes apparent when real-time reporting is important. Let's take a look at the differences:
Upstream workflows outside SAP
If you take a general look at the different workflow systems, you often find that they are grouped into SAP-integrated and external, i.e. not SAP-integrated, workflow systems. To find out more about how these workflow solutions differ, check out our blog article here.
Workflows for internal or technical documents within SAP
At first glance, workflow solutions using technical documents, look like SAP-integrated products. In addition to a Web interface, there is always a transaction that is called via the SAP GUI. The look and feel of this transaction is always very much based on SAP. In most cases, you can enter invoice data, display images of invoices, and start workflows in the transaction.
The technical document is visually similar to classic SAP invoice transactions such as FB01, FB60, or MIRO for invoices with PO reference. The difference, however, is that no real SAP document was created at the time of data entry. A document can also be identified as a technical one by the fact that there is no FI document number, which would typically begin with "19" or with "51" for MM invoices. Instead, it is identified with the company's own document numbering system. In most systems, the SAP document number is not assigned until the invoice is posted.
Therefore, as long as the document remains in the workflow (which, for more complex processes, might be quite a long time), there is no SAP document number. If you want to cross-check, call a standard transaction, such as the list of line items for vendors (transaction FBL1N), the document display using transaction FB03, or the display of actual costs in Controlling using transaction KSB5N. You will see that these technical documents cannot be called up because they are not SAP documents in the classic sense.
Technical documents are not subject to all SAP checks and can provide a degree of flexibility that is not possible with posted documents, among others. Though technical documents offer many freedoms, you should also take into account that whenever you execute SAP reports, there will be a time delay which may even last a few days.
Workflows for parked documents within SAP
Some SAP customers are not so familiar with the parking step. The paper process usually provides for entry at the end of the process in the accounting department, which almost always leads directly to posting.
Customers using a paper-based process have seldom worked with the SAP parking step and are therefore generally unaware of all that it offers. A parked document represents a compromise between two forms—that of a technical document and that of a posted document. A parked document receives its FI or MM document number directly upon creation, and it can be called up using standard transactions such as FB03 or MIR6. You can also use the transaction FBL1N if you wish to view the list of vendor line items. In terms of reporting, a workflow for parked documents offers an enormous advantage over the use of purely technical documents.
A document that has been parked can always be changed or corrected. This means that the document does not even have to be complete at the time it is parked—information can be supplemented at any time during the process. Only a few details are fixed at the point of entry—the transaction type (FI/MM invoice or FI/MM credit memo) or the company code, for instance. When selecting a workflow system, care should therefore be taken to ensure that there are functions offering convenience in changing entries.
Parking offers flexibility and represents a good compromise between the advantages offered by technical and those of posted documents.
Workflows for posted documents within SAP
Unlike technical and parked documents, a posted document cannot be changed once it has been posted. It is regarded as the final document and is thus also complete. If you later notice that a change is required, you can only post a correction or reverse the posting.
Workflows for posted documents can be very useful if everything fits during entry. Customers often use workflows for posted documents for PO-based transactions. During capture, the system checks whether both the invoice items and the goods receipt correspond to the purchase order items. If all other checks have good results and there is no blocking reason, the workflow can also post the document directly. In some cases, a random check may be necessary to make sure that documents are routed to a release step after posting and are confirmed by a user in the workflow. If, however, the release is rejected, the document can still be reversed or, in the case of a positive result, released and submitted to the workflow. Such requirements often exist with manufacturers or suppliers in the automotive sector.
It is a good idea to use a workflow for posted documents if the procurement process is adhered to, a high degree of standardization ensured, and a certain level of discipline maintained in the process.
The bottom line
Whether it is best for you to go with technical documents, parked documents or posted documents all depends on individual requirements. If you are willing to compromise in the area of reporting, technical documents are a good choice. However, if true real-time reporting is important, a workflow for parked or posted documents would be preferable.